Sunday Leftovers

The founder and chair of the LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden explains how LEAP has successfully implemented a merit pay system among its teachers that is based on student outcomes.

A two-parter (one, two) in the Star-Ledger looks at wretched excess and incompetence among projects completed or underway by NJ’s Schools Development Authority. For example, spanking-new New Brunswick High School, built at a cost of $180 million, boasts a “full, restaurant-style kitchen designed by a professional chef.” International High School in Paterson, with a total enrollment of 386 kids, has a $53 million building, which includes “an expansive music wing.” It’s dark and locked, though because there’s actually no music teacher and no plans to hire one, especially since the state can’t get a Certificate of Occupancy due to major construction flaws.

Speaking of the SDA, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has asked the State Auditor to “look into how $584 million in school construction projects in poor districts were selected.” Specific concern was cited regarding (unselected) Trenton High School, which has “corroding drain pipes, sagging and partially collapsed ceilings, warped floor boards, and damaged flashing on the roof.

Passing rates on NJ’s Alternative High School Assessment (the test high school seniors take after they’ve failed the traditional HSPA three times) look better than last year’s, when 3,000 kids failed and were denied diplomas. NJ Spotlight queries the DOE about last year’s problems, and finds that results were never “tabulated.” Stan Karp at Education Law Center says the problem is the DOE’s flawed data system.

A new 501C(3) that includes NJEA is called Working Families for New Jersey. An NJEA spokesperson told the Star-Ledger that it was formed because of the "national attack on labor unions and collective bargaining."

Gordon MacInnes of Education Law Center criticizes DOE staffers for manipulating data to show that poor kids do better in autonomous public schools (charters) rather than in traditional public schools.

Steve Adubato writes about Judge Doyne’s ruling regarding the constitutionality of Gov. Christie’s 2010-2011 budget cuts (see here for our coverage) Now that the ball gets tossed to the State Supreme Court, says Adubato, it must deal with two questions:
First, how much difference does money make when it comes to providing a quality education for a child in a so-called Abbott school district? Second, assuming money is a major factor and the court does say more must be spent in struggling school districts, where is that money supposed to come from? I know this is not the responsibility or the purview of the Supreme Court, but to ignore that question is lunacy. Even if we reinstate the so-called Millionaire’s Tax (which I support) it wouldn’t bring in nearly enough money to fund urban schools to the degree the court is likely to conclude or that Judge Doyne argues.

Jason Riley at the Wall Street Journal interviews AFT’s President Randi Weingarten:
And so it goes. Ms. Weingarten insists that teachers unions are agents of change, not defenders of the status quo. But in the next breath she shoots down suggestions for changes—vouchers, charter schools, differential teacher pay and so on—that have become important parts of the reform conversation. She seems to conceive of her job as the one William F. Buckley Jr. ascribed to conservatives in the 1950s: To stand athwart history yelling "Stop!"
The Aspen Institute has just published three new studies that examine value-added models for teacher evaluations and new strategies for merit pay.

NPR looks at charter schools for well-to-do suburbanites.